The New AE - Coming to a Computer Near You
By Bruce McKinney
In a few days we'll release the next generation of the site you are on today. It is a complex undertaking, the integration of many services that reflect our sense of what an up-to-date web-site for books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera logically combines. At its heart it is our commitment to a unified market where knowledge is concentrated and buyers and sellers efficiently find each other. To accomplish this we employ triangulated searches. It is what we think the world of rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera will rely on. It is efficient and seeks to set the table for purchases and bids by reducing uncertainty. It does not set prices but does provide current estimates and within the month probability of reappearance calculations. During the downturn we have seen no lessening of interest, only rising uncertainty as to fair market value. This approach is our best effort at restoring confidence and increasing efficiency for a field that deserves broad support and has been the victim of balkanization for years.
The most significant changes in the new AE focus on 'integrated search.' The AED, our largest database, Books for Sale and lots in upcoming auctions are now simultaneously searched. In the database you choose, as the results appear, you also see the number of results in the other databases. New York finds 350,879 records in 3 seconds in the AED. It also finds 223,302 results in Books for Sale and 139 in upcoming auctions in the same 3 seconds. Every search brings up parallel results.
The site itself has been to the doctor. For the community at large there is AE Monthly which sports a new look. For those who sell books there is Books for Sale which becomes more effective in the triangulated search environment. For those who seek material as it emerges on the net there is Matchmaker. Because many people periodically use some or all of these services they are combined. Members, from free to premium, have access to what they need. Subscription prices remain the same: research $185, Octavo $340, Folio $525. Visitors may try out the site for 10 or 30 days for $15 or $22.50. As well the list of free services continues to increase.
The changes we introduce this month represent our strongest effort to date to capture the lightning bug at sunset. The entire field is a moving target; need, requirement, technology, capability and expectation a witches brew of possibilities. This is not the book business of a generation ago, it's not even the book business of a year ago. In truth the book business of twenty years ago had more in common with bookselling a hundred years ago than it does with book selling today. The field changes, the rate of change increases. The deus ex machina is the micro processor that makes it possible to organize complex information instantly. There has always been interest in book history, hence the many books, pricing guides, bibliographies, and catalogued collections that together, for generations, created the patchwork quilt of information and references that supported research and collecting across the printed universe. Increasingly though these resources are merged. In the AED we are approaching 300 sources and soon enough 3 million records with each search in some sense an up-to-the minute custom bibliography reflecting most of what is known and a selection of what's currently available. We have come that far.